Anthrax is mainly a disease of animals. It is relatively uncommon in industrialized countries and is primarily an occupational concern for workers handling infected hides, bone, and wool of sheep, cattle, goats, horses, and pigs. It can be spread by direct contact through punctures or cuts in the skin and has a mortality rate of about 10%. As indicated in Section 12.1.1, this is the disease for which, in 1876, Koch's principles were first demonstrated.

However, because the causative agent, Bacillus anthracis, is a bacterial endospore-former and easily grown in culture in the laboratory, anthrax has been of increased concern as a biological warfare agent. If dispersed in the air and inhaled in high amounts, virulent strains cause a respiratory disease that is rapidly fatal in virtually 100% of unvac-cinated victims.

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